The Janus Collection
La Ciudad de los Signos / Stromboli
La Ciudad de los Signos
dir. Samuel Alarcón, Spain, 2009, digital, color & b/w, Spanish with English subtitles, 63 min.
Introduction by Mercedes Cebrián Coello, PhD Candidate in the Department of Hispanic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and a current resident of International House. Mercedes will share her thoughts and experiences of working with director Samuel Alarcon during the making of La Ciudad de los Signos while they both studied in Rome.
In March 1980, César Alarcón traveled to Pompeii to carry out an ambitious project; to collect psycho-phonic samples of the great eruption of Vesuvius that had destroyed the city in 79 AD. Upon reviewing all his recordings, none of them seems to contain sounds from the Pompeian disaster. Instead, recorded unexpectedly on one of the tapes was a strange phrase captured that Alarcón remembers hearing much more recently. La ciudad de los signos is a journey through the films of the Italian director Roberto Rossellini. Rossellini’s cinema was a stiletto that opened the breach through which all modern cinemas now passes. The landscapes used as locations for Rossellini’s film shoot still retain signals. Signs that are part of a vast city built on the backs of the living and the dead.
dir. Roberto Rossellini, Italy, 1950, DCP, b/w, Italian w/ English subtitles, 106 min.
The first collaboration between Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman is a devastating portrait of a woman’s existential crisis, set against the beautiful and forbidding backdrop of a volcanic island. After World War II, a Lithuanian refugee (Bergman) marries a simple Italian fisherman (Mario Vitale) she meets in a prisoner of war camp and accompanies him back to his isolated village on an island off the coast of Sicily. Cut off from the world, she finds herself crumbling emotionally, but she is destined for a dramatic epiphany. Balancing the director’s trademark neorealism—exemplified here in a remarkable depiction of the fishermen’s lives and work—with deeply felt melodrama, Stromboli is a revelation.